Suzann Pettersen wins as final round is cancelled
Norwegian star Suzann Pettersen won the Hana Bank KOLON Championship on Sunday when high wind and unplayable conditions on the stressed putting surfaces forced tournament officials to call off the final round.
"I guess it has to kind of sink in that I actually won this tournament," Pettersen said. "Of course, it's not the way I want to win. You want to complete the tournament as it is originally set up, but this time the last round wasn't playable."
The Solheim Cup player opened with a 3-under 69 on Friday and shot an even-par 72 on Saturday in cold and windy conditions to take the lead at 3 under.
She won her fourth LPGA Tour title of the season and became the first non-South Korean winner in the six-year history of the event.
"I feel very fortunate to break the Korean streak," Pettersen said. "Of course, it's not the way we wanted to end this tournament. It felt like I played 36 great holes. I fought every day and it was very hard."
South Korea's Eun-Hee Ji finished a stroke back, compatriots Seon Hwa Lee and Jeong Jang followed at 1 under, and Hyun-Hee Moon was fifth at even par. Top-ranked Lorena Ochoa, coming off her seventh victory of the season last week in the Samsung World Championship, tied for 12th at 3 over after rounds of 72 and 75.
The course was deemed unplayable after days of high wind on the greens that were already severely stressed by more than 20 inches of rain.
"The constant wind and the sun today and part of yesterday tended to dry them out more, but we had very limited grass to start with, basically no grass, which makes it virtually unplayable for players to hit to the green and putt on the green and be able to play in a fair manner," LPGA Tour rules official Sue Witters said.
"The greens deteriorated a little bit each day and, with the excessive wind yesterday that continued all day and into the night and this morning, it just took its toll on the greens and we were not able to play golf."
Many fans vehemently protested after the decision was made to call off play in South Korea's lone LPGA Tour event.
"In Korea, this is the one and only," South Korean star Mi Hyun said. "Everyone came from all over the nation to watch this. What triggered the galleries reactions might have been the cold weather conditions and I'm really sorry for that, but we tried to play as much as we can. ... Because of the horrible weather, conditions became unplayable. This is not the players' fault, not the sponsors' fault, not the course's fault. We just had bad luck with the weather."
Witters said many fans didn't understand the reason play was stopped.
"Because there was not a storm with thunder and lightening, it might have made this decision a little unsure with the fans because they could not get the whole story about the greens being unplayable," she said. "The players, as well as the officials, were just as disappointed to be unable to play because this is what we do."
Pettersen, sidelined for eight months in 2005 by a career-threatening ruptured disk in her back, has had a breakthrough season, highlighted by her first major title in the McDonald's LPGA Championship in June.
She also won the Michelob Ultra Open in May for her first LPGA Tour victory, took the Ladies European Tour's SAS Masters in August in Norway, and beat Ochoa two weeks ago in a playoff in the Longs Drugs Challenge. Last week in the Samsung, Pettersen finished fifth after starting the final round tied for the lead with Ochoa.
"There are so many good players out here with Lorena in the front and we're pushing each other to get better," Pettersen said. "I'm just very fortunate and glad to be a part of that group of players. It's just been a fantastic year, but it's not over. I have three tournaments left. To come here to Korea and capture my fourth win, it's something I believed I could do, but to sit here and hold the trophy is very nice."
She earned $191,250 to raise her season total to $1,558,309, second only to Ochoa's tour-record $3,337,993.
The LPGA Tour will remain in Asian the next two weeks for the Honda LPGA Thailand and Mizuno Classic in Japan.